Can Bibi and Obama get along?


Natan Sharansky, who generally opposes Israeli concessions, and the Israel Policy Forum’s M.J. Rosenberg, a defender of the land-for-peace formulam, can be counted on to disagree about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, ahead of Likud’s projected win in next week’s Israeli elections, both men are poopooing the idea that President Obama and Benjamin Netayahu are set for a major confrontation.

Relax, it’s not as if they really argee. Sharansky thinks Obama will accept Bibi’s view of the world, as long as the Israeli leader is upfront about it — just tell the U.S. president that you’re not planning on reaching a deal, and he’ll learn to live with it. Rosenberg, on the other hand, says Obama is in the driver’s seat and can push forward knowing that it is Netanyahu who will need to adapt.

Here’s how Shranasky put it in an interview with the Jerusalem Post:

Sharansky said he was convinced that Netanyahu would get along well with Obama’s administration and that the president would endorse Netanyahu’s approach to achieving peace with the Palestinians.

"The attempt to use Obama to attack Bibi really bothers me," Sharansky said in an interview at his Jerusalem office on Thursday. "It is absolutely ridiculous to say that a candidate who can say no to the Americans is dangerous, because it assumes that the ability to say no to the Americans is a bad thing."

Sharansky said there was no danger of a crisis with the US over a disagreement between the two countries as long as Israel was open with the American administration about its policies.

He said it had been proven true historically that crises between Israel and the United States only emerged when the Israeli government misinformed Washington about its true leanings on a particular issue.

"If they have a feeling that we are playing games, that’s when we have a real problem," Sharansky said.

Over at, Rosenberg offered his take:

No matter who heads Israel’s next government, it is President Obama who holds 51 cards in the deck.

Israelis understand that. The last prime minister who went head-to-head with the President of the United States was Yitzhak Shamir. When President George H.W. Bush demanded a settlements freeze as a condition for aid, Shamir said "no." Within months he was out of office, replaced by Yitzhak Rabin with the furtive help of the Bush administration. Not surprisingly, Rabin quickly reversed Shamir’s policy….

It can be argued that a rightwing prime minister like Netanyahu has a more difficult time resisting the United States than a prime minister perceived as moderate like a Barak or a Livni.

Golda Meir was, along with Yitzhak Shamir, the most inflexible leader Israel ever had. But she consistently managed to outfox President Nixon (to the detriment of both Israel and the United States) by looking and sounding moderate. Her successor, Menachem Begin, a right-winger, did not have Meir’s advantage. When President Carter put on the pressure, he caved (to the benefit of Israel and the United States).

Dovish types prepared to go into mourning over the likely Netanyahu victory should bear this history in mind when the election results come in next week. Things aren’t always what they seem.

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